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Dakar 2022: Dune surfers take charge as stage is set for final stage

Audi

Bengaluru, January 14: A superb second week for Audi Sport continued in Dakar 2022 with a third stage win in four days as Spain's rally legend Carlos Sainz set the fastest time in the car category even as Qatari ace moved to within striking distance of annexing his fourth crown.

It was the 41st Dakar stage win for El Matador and a fourth for the Audi RS Q e-tron on its debut appearance at the world's toughest rally.

"It was a difficult stage with quite a bit of dust. We had dunes and camel grass. It was the most complete stage we have had so far. I was happy with how managed the stage," said Sainz.

Sainz is a three-time Dakar winner and so too is Al Attiyah.

Dakar 2022: Sainz wins Stage 10, Al Attiyah sniffs victoryDakar 2022: Sainz wins Stage 10, Al Attiyah sniffs victory

However, it is looking increasingly likely that Friday (January 14) will see Al Attiyah lift his fourth Dakar trophy. Toyota Gazoo Racing's lead driver takes a cushion of over half an hour into this Dakar's final stage.

Advantage Al Attiyah

Advantage Al Attiyah

"Every day my team gives me a good car and we have confidence in each other to finish the job. To control the Dakar is not easy and we are using all of our experience," said Al Attiyah, the champion in 2011, 2015 and 2019.

The Qatari may be on the brink of another Dakar title, but that does not mean he can relax on Stage 12.

Loeb challenge

Loeb challenge

Hot on his heels is nine-time World Rally Championship (WRC) winner Sebastien Loeb and his Bahrain Raid Xtreme (BRX) Hunter is ready to pounce should Al Attiyah run into any complications on the way to Jeddah.

Overdrive Toyota's local hero Yazeed is a distant third, almost an hour adrift of Al Attiyah. The overall lead in the T3 category still belongs to Chile's Chaleco Lopez.

Lead challengers

Lead challengers

The current leader of the bike contest is Great Britain's Sam Sunderland after he took back top spot on Stage 11. If the GasGas Factory rider can hold his position on Friday's final stage, he will be the first rider to win the Dakar bike race with two different brands since France's legendary Richard Sainct did it two decades ago.

In the trucks category, 2021 race champion Dmitry Sotnikov is on to make it two in a row as he leads this year's rally by over eight minutes. However, his nearest competitor is team-mate Eduard Nikolaev. Will Nikolaev put his foot down and try for a fifth Dakar win behind the wheel of a Kamaz truck? Kamaz also have an iron grip on P3 and P4 with Anton Shibalov and Andrey Karginov set to deliver Kamaz a 1-2-3-4 overall result in the truck race. It is a remarkable achievement, and one Kamaz did once before at the Dakar in 2011.

Faultless racing

Faultless racing

Stage 11 of Dakar 2022 took the convoy of remaining competitors on a 345km loop around the Bisha bivouac. As is traditional, the penultimate stage represented a last chance to really shake up the leaderboards. While most leading contenders got their tactics right, others paid a big price for underestimating the desert.

Now, Friday's 12th and final stage of Dakar 2022 will feature 163kms of timed racing between Bisha and Jeddah. For the race leaders, the stakes could not be higher, one false move on the final stage could undo two weeks of faultless racing.

(With inputs from Red Bull/BRX Team Media)

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Story first published: Friday, January 14, 2022, 10:32 [IST]
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